Ashes 2015: Flawless England on course for first-Test victory

England leave the field after dismissing Australia
England took five wickets for 44 runs on Friday morning to dismiss Australia for 308

This is a very different England team to the one that was whitewashed down under 18 months ago and if Australia didn't know that before this Ashes series, they do now.

Alastair Cook's team are in a great position from which to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series and after Friday's flawless performance that is exactly what they deserve.

Everything went according to plan. The wicket of Shane Watson, who was a touch unlucky to be given lbw to a ball that was grazing the top of leg stump, provided England with exactly the start they wanted and after that they were away.

With Alastair Cook expertly shuffling his bowlers and setting clever fields to encourage the drive, James Anderson produced a remarkable spell with the new ball to help blow away the Australia tail.

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Unlike their counterparts, England's seamers all bowled a very full length, which is ideal for a pitch like this where the bounce is suspect, making it very hard to score runs or survive.

It is the sort of pitch where there is a ball with your name on it so England were absolutely right to bat positively from the start of their second innings.

One of the key passages of play was the half hour after lunch when Ian Bell and Adam Lyth sent the message to Australia that if they thought they could tie England down they could forget it.

I was eating my lunch in the press dining area and you could just hear the screams from the crowd as the ball kept going to the boundary.

Mark Wood celebrates the wicket of Nathan Lyon with team-mates
Mark Wood took 2-66 to help dismiss Australia before scoring 32 not out

Indeed, even after Bell was out for a fluent 60, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood continued in the same positive vein to set Australia a target that would be fiendishly difficult on any pitch, let alone one where not only is there variable bounce but the ball is also starting to spin.

You find yourself almost pinching yourself to say it but England are now firm favourites to go 1-0 up.

The way this match has panned out would have been beyond the wildest dreams of fans and probably beyond those of the players as well.

It has been an extraordinary transformation and England have got there through skill and professionalism.

They have come out with a positive intent, which is exactly the way you have to play against Michael Clarke's side.

Michael Vaughan tweet
Michael Vaughan is backing England to win if the weather stays good

That doesn't mean sledging. It means being on the front foot and taking the game to Australia, and it has opened up a few little issues for the tourists.

They are not a young side and they have a few players who look like they are creaking a little bit, not least the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who is 37.

This is not an easy pitch to keep wicket on but when you get to his sort of age people do start to ask questions.

Haddin will have a chance to answer his critics when he bats again in Australia's second innings, but if England play as well as they have done in the first three days there should only be one winner.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Sam Sheringham.

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